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Arrhythmias: Foods That Affect Heart Rate

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Certain types of foods tend to aggravate certain arrhythmias.

Your doctor might recommend that you avoid specific foods that can trigger your arrhythmia. To keep your heart as healthy as possible, try to eat heart-healthy foods.

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Many people have thought that caffeine causes arrhythmias. It is a stimulant. It can raise your heart rate and may cause you to feel like your heart is skipping a beat. But a moderate amount of caffeine is not known to cause serious heart rhythm problems or make them worse. Most people who have an arrhythmia do not need to avoid chocolate or caffeinated coffee, tea, or soft drinks.

Avoiding foods and beverages known to aggravate arrhythmias

Eating certain foods and drinking certain beverages may provoke your arrhythmia. Be aware of which substances have an effect on your arrhythmia and how to avoid them. In general, small amounts of any food will not trigger an arrhythmia. But in larger quantities, some foods can aggravate your heart and cause your arrhythmia to occur or get worse. Be aware of the foods listed below, as they may trigger your arrhythmia. It is a good idea to talk with your doctor about your diet.

Alcohol

Alcohol can cause arrhythmias in people with normal hearts and can cause heart conditions that result in arrhythmias. People who drink heavily can develop a weak heart (alcoholic cardiomyopathy). When this occurs, they can have various arrhythmias including atrial fibrillation, atrial flutter, and ventricular tachycardia. The heart may return to normal if the person stops drinking, and the risk of recurrent arrhythmias will decrease. Alcohol can directly injure heart cells and cause extra heartbeats and supraventricular tachycardias. Atrial fibrillation may occur after a drinking binge.

Fad diets: Use extra caution!

Many weight-loss diets can be harmful to your heart if you have an arrhythmia. Fad diets such as liquid-based programs or high-protein regimens can affect the concentrations of electrolytes in your bloodstream. This can, in turn, cause problems with your heart's electrical system, which relies on electrolytes to function properly. If you have experienced an arrhythmia in the past, you should be cautious of fad diets. In order to avoid recurrences of your arrhythmia, always check with your doctor before making drastic changes to your eating habits.

Herbal remedies

When taken at higher levels, ephedra—an herb used by some people for cold and allergy symptoms and to improve sports performance—can cause drastic increases in blood pressure as well as cardiac arrhythmias. Ephedra, also called ma huang, has been linked to heart attacks, strokes, and some deaths.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 12, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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